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Sera Monastery

Located 2.01km north of Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, the Sera Monastery is one of the "great six" Gelukpa university monasteries. "Sera" means wild roses in Tibetan language. The site where the monastery was once surrounded by wild blooming roses, hence the name.

The Sera Monastery was founded in 1419 during the Ming Dinasty by Jamchen Chojey, a disciple of Tsongkhapa. Before a monastery was built in Sera, Tsongkhapa had established hermitages in the cliffs above. Over the years, the monastery grew to have close to 6000 monks.

Sera Monastery is magnificent and covers an area of 114,946 square meters. It housed several institutions in its precincts. The structures of notability were the Coqen Hall Tsokchen (Great Assembly Hall), the three Zhacangs (colleges) and Kamcun (dormitory) also called Homdong Kangtsang. In the main hall, scriptures (scripted with gold powder), statues, scent cloth and murals were seen in profusion.

Great Assembly Hall
The Great Assembly Hall, a four-storey structure, is where several religious rituals and rites are conducted. It covers an area of 2,000 square meters built with 125 pillars (86 tall and 39 short columns) and was constructed by Lhazang Qan. The entry portico had ten columns. The five chapels in this building have statues or images of Maitreya, Shakyamuni, Arhats, Tsongkhapa, and Kwan-yin with one thousand hands and eleven faces. The ancient and delicately written scriptures "the Gangyur of Tripitaka" also spelt "Kangyur" (dated 1410) in 105 volumes (original 108 volumes) written in Tibetan is the treasured possession of the monastery. It is said that Chengzhu, Emperor of the Ming Dynasty presented these scriptures (printed on wood blocks with gold cover engraved in red lacquer and made in China), to Jamchen Chojey, the builder of the monastery.

Zhacang

Zhacang means Buddhist College in Tibetan. It is the area for monks to study the Buddhist Classics. In the monastery, there are three Zhacangs. They are Me Zhacang, Je Zhacang and Ngaba Zhacang. Me Zhacang was the oldest college built here, featuring a well-preserved fresco. Je Zhacang is the largest college in Sera complex, measured an area of 17,000 square metres. The Hayagriva displayed in it is extremely famous throughout Tibet. As for Ngaba Zhacang, it was the smallest of the three colleges that was set up in the complex.

Kamcun
Kamcuns are the dormitories where the monks usually dine and sleep. The Sera Monastery has around thirty-three Kamcuns. They are comprised of halls to read the doctrine, houses and tea houses. The Kamcuns range in size, as do the number of monks housed in each one. Lamas from the same or neighboring areas of Tibet are placed together in a Kamcun.

Sera Bengqin Festival
"Sera Bengqin Festival" is an impressive festival which is largely attended by monks and devotees. The festival is held some time in February as per the Gregorian calendar corresponding to specific date fixed by the monastery according to the Tibetan calendar. On that day, a Dorje Pestle is ceremoniously taken to the Potala Palace. The Dalai Lama offers prayers to the Buddha to bestow strength and blesses the Pestle. Thereafter, the pestle is briefly placed on the heads of the monks and disciples by the Khenpo (president) of the Ngaba Zhacang. Tens of thousands of believers come to witness this event as it only occurs at the Sera Monastery.

Monk Debates
Sera monastery is famous for its "monk debates" which take place nearly everyday of the week. The monks gather each afternoon to debate Buddhist teachings and philosophy. Though many monasteries across Tibet have debates, Sera is the best and most popular place to witness it.

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